India remains in a state of shock over the Tuesday killing of an eighth grader by two fellow students in Gurgaon, near New Delhi, the national capital.
The victim, Abhishek Tyagi, had been bullying and beating up the killers, Akash and Vikas, whenever he chanced upon them in the last two months, Gurgaon Police Commissioner Mohinder Lal said.
'Yes, I killed Abhishek,' Akash said without a trace of remorse or hesitation when produced before the police after the shooting at the elite Euro International School.
The boys also told police that they used to meet only during lunch recess and when the school closed for the day.
'We are students of Class VIII Section B on the ground floor while Abhishek was in Section A on the second floor,' Lal said, quoting the boys.
Their last meeting proved fateful, when the two accosted Abhishek in the school premises and fired five shots at him. Two bullets hit him in the chest and one in the head, the Commissioner said.
As this is the first US-type school killing in India, the entire nation is agonizing over the incident, while the parents of the killers have made themselves scarce.
But no one from their families turned up when the two were produced before the chief judicial magistrate Tuesday night. Sent to a juvenile observation home on a 14-day judicial remand, they apparently had no visitors on Wednesday either. They would be tried under Juvenile Justice Act, the police said.
The 14-year-old Akash who fired four times from his father's gun to kill Abishek also told the police that he had overheard his father talking to friends about the gun and how to use it, said Satheesh Ballan, Deputy Commissioner of police (South). 'Moreover, since the foreign-made pistol was quite old and did not have an automatic locking system, it was easy to use and just required the pull of trigger to go off,' he added.
The gun had been kept casually in a TV trolley and Akash had no problems in taking it out to school to kill Abhishek. A case under the Arms Act has been booked against Akash's father Azad
Ballan said the parents of both children were absconding. 'We are trying to get the witnesses in the case to record their statement. We have recorded the statement of the principal Mamta Sharma only but the parents of the children who had probably witnessed the shooting are not letting them talk to the police,' the DCP said.
The school itself has been closed for two days, while Satvir Yadav, Chairman of the School, maintained Abhishek was not a bully as reported in a section of the media.
Azad Yadav told a TV channel Thursday that his son was innocent and blamed the school for the shooting.
Gurgaon, which until 20 years ago was little more than a village, has become a symbol of the 'new' India, with its gleaming shopping centres and soaring skyline where penthouse flats now cost more than £1 million.
Real estate is booming and applications for gun licences have tripled in the last two years.
'The surge in gun crime should be seen in the context of rising economic prosperity in Gurgaon and possessing a gun is seen as a symbol of that rising prosperity,' noted a senior police official of
Urban India's enthusiasm for American-style consumerism, with many young people now earning considerably more than their parents, has caused concern that the country's traditional, family-orientated society is under attack.
Psychiatrists and social workers warned of the dangers of exposing of children to violent films, video games and satellite television channels, which for many Indian children are a phenomenon only of the last decade.
'It is shocking to see the level of danger children are getting exposed to today,' said Dr Jitendra Nagpal, a leading consultant psychiatrist in New Delhi. 'Use of firearms is common in the West but only timely intervention by schools and parents will stop further incidents in India.'
Meantime in Mumbai, the commercial metropolis of the country, highly perturbed school principals are chalking out strategies to prevent an encore there.
Only a week ago Gauran Dalvi (13), a student, had hanged himself to death because of his poor results.
'We have school counsellors, but students have to approach them for help. These incidents show that there has to be more interactivity. From this week, counsellors will speak to every student on issues like resilience and anger management,' said Kiran Bajaj, principal of Greenlawns High School, Warden Road.
The school has organised a parent meeting in January where a child psychologist will talk to them.
'Social pressures are the same, be it Delhi or Mumbai. We are setting up a committee with parents, teachers and child welfare organisations to tackle adolescent issues,' said Vijaykumar Pereira, principal, St Francis ICSE School,
Principals feel that it is time adults step in to undo the damage that they have done. 'Children are brought up on a diet of violence and instant gratification. We have to do something,' said Meera Isaacs, principal, Cathedral and John Canon School. The school will organise separate counselling workshops for parents, teachers and students in January.
Goenka Associates and Educational Trust, that controls three city schools, has incorporated a weekly counselling period from January 1. 'Our counsellors will spend an hour every week with students from Class 1 onwards. It will be a friendly interaction where children will perform exercises that depict their mental state,' said Usha Raina, chief operating officer of the trust.